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One day after honoring injured teammate Johnathan Taylor with a win over Mercer, the Diamond Dogs headed to Gwinnett County for a non-conference clash with the Crimson Tide (or, rather, a non-exhibition clash with conference foe Alabama that will not count in the SEC standings) to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (as noted here a month ago). The Red and Black built up an early lead and never looked back, cruising to their third win in the Athenians’ last four games.
Left-handed pitcher Chase Hawkins drew the starting assignment for the Classic City Canines, and he got the first frame underway by plunking Alabama center fielder Taylor Dugas. Catcher Brock Bennett sacrificed him over to second, and a fielder’s choice advanced the baserunner to third, but left fielder Austen Smith struck out to end the Tide’s turn at the plate. This opened the door for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the opening inning.
Third baseman Curt Powell led off with a base hit, and second baseman Levi Hyams followed that up with a double. Center fielder Zach Cone brought them both home with a single, and, after the baserunner advanced on a wild pitch, shortstop Kyle Farmer sent a one-out single into right field to plate another run. An ensuing two-out double off the bat of designated hitter Brett DeLoach gave the Red and Black four runs on five hits.
A Farmer error produced the lone ‘Bama baserunner of the second stanza, while a pair of Crimson Tide miscues in the home half of the canto led to an unearned run for the Red and Black. After neither combatant produced a baserunner in the third inning, designated hitter David Kindred led off the visitors’ half of the fourth frame with a double. Hawkins retired the next three batters to render the Red Elephants’ first hit moot. Georgia generated a run off of three straight two-out singles in the bottom of the canto.
In the top of the fifth stanza, right fielder Andrew Miller became the second Alabaman to be hit by a pitch, then Dugas, Bennett, shortstop Jared Reaves, and Kindred became, respectively, the second, third, fourth, and fifth Crimson Tide batters to record hits. This cut the Diamond Dogs’ lead in half, marking the end of the line for Hawkins. Right-handed reliever Eric Swegman was brought in from the bullpen, and he persuaded the next two batters to strike out swinging.
In the next inning and a half, the two teams combined for three hits yet no runs. Swegman issued a pair of walks to start the seventh stanza, thereby bringing the tying run to the plate and sophomore southpaw Blake Dieterich to the mound, and the new Georgia hurler proceeded to extract a double play grounder from Kindred and a flyout from Smith. The Classic City Canines went quietly in the home half of the canto, while the Tide notched only a meaningless single in the top of the eighth inning.
The Red Elephants’ third error of the evening allowed outfielder Peter Verdin to reach base with two outs away in the home half of the frame, and Powell moved him over with a base hit, but Hyams struck out to strand both baserunners. Dieterich remained on the hill at the outset of the ninth canto, and, after surrendering a one-out single to Bennett, he coaxed a flyout from Reaves and fanned Kindred to secure the victory.
The Bulldog bullpen contributed four and two-thirds scoreless innings, and the Red and Black pitching staff combined for nine strikeouts and three bases on balls. Georgia got solid production at the plate from the top of the order, as Curt Powell (4 for 5), Levi Hyams (2 for 5), and Zach Cone (2 for 4, 3 RBI) led the way. The Diamond Dogs finished the night with three more runs, three more hits, and two fewer errors than the Crimson Tide.
A year ago, Alabama carded a 13-2 midweek victory over Georgia under circumstances similar to these. (Granted, both of these games were played at neutral sites in the back yards of the nominal home teams, so the crowds undoubtedly favored the host squads.) The Bulldogs played well against the eighth-ranked Florida St. Seminoles, and now they have carded a pair of midweek wins over legitimate competition in consecutive contests. Maybe, just maybe, the Red and Black are starting to climb back to respectability.